By Amanda Hatfield
MIMS -- Ever since Diane Delano rode her first horse at 3 years old, she knew the majestic creatures would play a significant role in her life.
"My father bought me my first horse when I was 13," said Mrs. Delano, founder of Wild Horse Rescue Center in Mims. "I've never been without a horse since then."
It wasn't until 1975, though, that she came in contact with her first mustang.
"I was drawn to its wild nature and the beauty of it," Mrs. Delano said.
Instantly in love, Mrs. Delano began to devote her time to the breed.
"A girlfriend and I adopted a mustang when I was 29," Mrs. Delano added.
Because of their wild nature, many people have a bad misconception of the mustang.
"People typically mistreat them because they don't know how to work with such a strong breed," Mrs. Delano said. "When people adopt a mustang, it takes a significant amount of work and affection to gentle them."
Mrs. Delano took it upon herself to mentor people about how to work with wild mustangs, volunteering countless hours to the cause.
After working with many mistreated mustangs throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Mrs. Delano decided to open the Wild Horse Rescue Center in Mims.
"Our focus is specifically on wild mustangs," Mrs. Delano added. "If I took in other breeds of horses, I would have hundreds here."
While her goal is to see many of the mustangs adopted into good homes, Mrs. Delano knows that not all horses can be gentled.
"When a horse doesn't respond to the trainers or myself, I will sanctuary them," Mrs. Delano said. "They get to live out their lives here at the rescue, where they can be as wild as they please."
Mrs. Delano is recognized throughout the country for the incredible work she does with mustangs.
"In 2004, I was awarded the 'Making a Difference' award from the Bureau of Land Management," Mrs. Delano said.
One of nine people chosen out of 18,000 volunteers, Mrs. Delano flew to Washington, D.C. to accept the award.
"It was such a tremendous honor to be chosen strictly for my work with the breed," Mrs. Delano added.
Mrs. Delano also received the 4-C Conservation award for her work with mustangs.
"This award was also a huge honor since they typically give this out to organizations," Mrs. Delano said.
Prior to opening Wild Horse Rescue Center, Mrs. Delano traveled around the country, seeking out wild horse groups.
"It was then that I learned I wanted to take a more holistic approach to the way I worked with the mustangs," Mrs. Delano said.
Through her research, Mrs. Delano learned about integrated equine cranial-sacral therapy.
"This is a very hands-on type of therapy, and you must be rounded before you work on the animals," Mrs. Delano said.
Integrated equine cranial-sacral therapy deals with the emotional discomfort, distress and irregular breathing of the animal.
"Within the animal's spinal cord is a fluid, and when the animal is distressed, so is the fluid," Mrs. Delano added. "The stress acts like things that would clog up that river of fluid and disrupt the function of the horse."
Integrated equine cranial-sacral therapy flushes a person's energy through the horse to help the animal release its built-up emotion.
"There's quite a physical reaction within the horse," Mrs. Delano said. "Sometimes, you can see their chest go completely concave."
"Soon after our mustangs receive this kind of therapy, they will start to look and act healthy again," Mrs. Delano added.
Through the help of Wes Maillard, an expert in integrated equine cranial-sacral therapy, Mrs. Delano holds seminars at Wild Horse Rescue Center to help bring attention to their cause.
"People don't have to be great with horses to participate," Mrs. Delano said. "I would encourage people to research, either online or at the library."
In 2011, Mrs. Delano also began an international program for volunteers to come work with the mustangs at her rescue center.
"So far, we've had several volunteers come from Eastern Europe for a period of weeks," Mrs. Delano said.
Through her love and commitment to the mustangs, Mrs. Delano hopes she can teach others about their wild beauty.
"The mustangs are captivating and a large part of American history," Mrs. Delano said. "We must love and respect them, and give them the treatment they deserve."
People interested in visiting or volunteering at Wild Horse Rescue Center are asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org with the dates they are interested in visiting.
For more information, visit www.wildhorserescuecenter.org or call (321) 427-1523.